Ron Johnson can’t seem to get his story straight.
Last week, in a hearing of the 1/6 committee, we learned that Johnson’s chief of staff had attempted to coordinate the hand-off of a slate of fake electors from Michigan and Wisconsin to Vice President Mike Pence. (Pence’s head of legislative affairs put the kibosh on the move before it ever happened.)
Asked about his involvement, Johnson, a Republican senator from Wisconsin, said that he knew nothing about it. Because it’s important, here’s the full exchange on Tuesday afternoon between Johnson, CNN’s Manu Raju and other reporters:
Johnson: “These things were delivered to our office – I didn’t know they were coming. I had no hand in it. My staff – my chief of staff did the right thing, he called up the vice president. He didn’t want it, we didn’t send it to him. End of story.”
Raju: “Why did you just deliver that to the vice president without vetting it or asking more questions about it?”
Johnson: “I didn’t deliver it. We called them up. We called them up. He didn’t want it. We didn’t deliver it. End of story.”
Raju: “But why did you even offer it without vetting it?”
Johnson: “We got handed an envelope that was supposed to go to the vice president, I didn’t know. So we called, we called up the vice president, he didn’t want it. We didn’t deliver it. It’s a non-story – guys this is such a non-story.”
Reporter: “Was that the first you had heard of it when you received the envelope?”
Reporter: “And who, do you remember who gave it to you?”
Johnson: “No, it was a staff-to-staff deal. I mean, it apparently had Michigan and Wisconsin. I had no hand in any of it. Again, this, this, this lasted a couple minutes in our office. Then the episode was over. And this – guys it’s a total non-story.”
Raju: “Are you gonna ask your aides about who this person was? Have you asked–”
Johnson: “We didn’t know – literally don’t – it was a staff to staff – somebody from the House, some staff intern, you know, said we got to, the vice president needs this or whatever. I wasn’t involved. I don’t know what they said. But, but, but somebody from the House delivered to a staff member in my office, my chief of staff called the vice president, ‘hey, we got this.’ And the vice president said ‘don’t deliver it,’ and we didn’t.”
Raju: “Are you curious about the identity of this person? Do you want to ask about it?”
Johnson: “No. No, because there’s no conspiracy here. This is a complete non-story, guys. Complete non-story.”
So, according to Johnson, a “staff intern” from the House somehow got a hold of a fake slates of electors from two swing states and was trying to pass them to the vice president of the United States. Johnson, in this retelling, was wholly uninvolved.
Except, well, Johnson’s story started to change as the week went on.
By Thursday, Johnson said that the fake elector slates had come from the office of Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly. And, Johnson also acknowledged – in an interview with a local radio station – that he had coordinated, via text message, with his chief of staff and Dane Count attorney Jim Troupis to make sure Pence got the Wisconsin fake elector slate.
But, wait, there’s more. Kelly’s office told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that the congressman “has not spoken to Sen. Johnson for the better part of a decade, and he has no knowledge of the claims Mr. Johnson is making related to the 2020 election.”
There’s a Grand Canyon-sized gap between Johnson’s initial explanation (a House staff intern sent something to his office and his chief of staff tried to pass it along to Pence) and his second story (the fake slate came from Kelly’s office and that he was on an email chain coordinating a way to get the documents in front of Pence).
So, which is it? Did Johnson know nothing about the fake electors that his office attempted to get to Pence? Or was Johnson part of a coordinated attempt to get those elector slates in front of the vice president?
Either way, it’s certainly not a “complete non story.”